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  • Context (TH): Recently, the Madras High Court, in S. Harish vs Inspector of Police, held that downloading child pornography was not an offence under Section 67B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
  • Section 67B of the IT Act states that it is illegal to publish or transmit material depicting children in sexually explicit acts in electronic form.
  • Section 67B has five sub-clauses,
    1. Talks about publishing or transmitting material depicting children engaged in sexually explicit act or conduct,
    2. Deals with acts including downloading of child pornography material.
    3. Talks about cultivating, enticing or inducing children to [an] online sexually explicit relationship.
    4. Talks about facilitating abuse of children online and
    5. Talks about recording abuse/a sexually explicit act with children.

What is Child Pornography?

  • Information Technology Act, of 2000 (IT Act) defines child pornography as any representation through electronic media (including computer-generated images and animations) of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

 Child Pornography Data

Laws Governing Child Pornography in India

Information Technology (IT) Act

  • The act makes it illegal to produce, create, publish, or possess child pornography in India, and penalties for violating this law include imprisonment and fines.

Protection of a Child From Sexual Offenses (POSCO) Act

  • It addresses several forms of sexual abuse, including showing pornography to children, and also includes provisions for prosecuting sexual offenses against boys.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

  • It includes provisions for rehabilitation as well as reintegration of child sexual abuse victims.

Indian Penal Code

  • Section 292 of the IPC addresses the dissemination of obscene materials, including those involving children.
  • Section 293 prohibits the sale, distribution, or exhibition of obscene objects, which also covers child pornography.
  • Section 354A deals with sexual harassment and includes actions such as capturing or recording images of a person engaging in a private act without consent.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

  • It is a statutory body established under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
  • It works towards ensuring the rights and well-being of children, including protection from exploitation and abuse such as child pornography.

Cyber Crime Cells

  • Cybercrime cells established by state police departments employ trained professionals who specialize in digital forensics and cybercrime investigation to identify and track individuals involved in the production, distribution, and consumption of child pornography.

Effects of Child Pornography

Immediate effects on child victims

  • Physical injury and pain, including sexually transmitted diseases;
  • Feelings of shame, unworthiness, anger, and confusion;
  • Withdrawal and isolation;
  • Anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including nightmares, flashbacks, etc.

Long-term effects on child victims

  • Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illness;
  • Feelings of worthlessness & low self-esteem;
  • Distorted and unhealthy sexuality;
  • Difficulty establishing healthy relationships;
  • Risky behaviors, including substance abuse, promiscuity, self-mutilation, and suicidal attempts;
  • Greater risk of getting ensnared in commercial sexual exploitation;
  • Ongoing humiliation and lack of privacy;

Other negative effects

  • Fuels the demand for child pornography.
  • Desensitize children and normalize sexual activity in an effort by offenders to engage in sexual abuse or create new child pornography.
  • Gateway to hands-on child sexual abuse, or may be used by sex offenders to reduce their inhibitions and prepare themselves to offend.
  • Normalize and increase behaviors by minors such as sexting and other risky sexual behaviors.
  • Contributes to the hyper-sexualization of children in American culture.

State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti (2016)

  • SC emphasized that even mere possession of child pornography is a punishable offense.
  • The court recognized the importance of protecting children from sexual exploitation and reiterated the need for strict action against offenders.

Shibu Soren v. Central Bureau of Investigation (2007)

  • The Jharkhand High Court ruled that a person can be prosecuted for promoting or transmitting child pornography through electronic media.
  • This case expanded the scope of child pornography offenses to include online dissemination and distribution.

Pardeep Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2014)

  • The Himachal Pradesh High Court held that viewing or accessing child pornography is an offense under the POCSO Act, regardless of whether the person downloaded or possessed the content.
  • This judgment clarified that mere consumption of child pornography is punishable under the law.

Challenges in Enforcing Child Pornography Laws in India

  • Many people, including parents, caregivers, and even law enforcement personnel, lack awareness about child pornography & and its implications hampering timely reporting and proper handling.
  • Overburdened courts and lengthy legal procedures can lead to delayed justice for child pornography victims, causing frustration and discouraging others from reporting similar incidents.
  • The proliferation of encrypted platforms and dark web networks makes it harder for law enforcement to detect and track child pornography activities.
  • Jurisdictional challenges arise when the offender and victim are located in different countries, requiring cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies from different jurisdiction.
  • Lack of coordination between law enforcement, child protection agencies, and other stakeholders leads to inefficiencies in handling cases and providing support to victims.

Way Forward

  • Using specialist cybercrime units, increase training and resources for law enforcement authorities to efficiently investigate and prosecute child pornography cases.
  • Conduct extensive awareness efforts to inform the public, parents, and kids about the risks associated with child pornography & necessity of reporting such events right away.
  • Establish dedicated fast-track courts to expedite child pornography cases, ensuring swift justice for victims and discouraging offenders through timely convictions.
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